Belgium's fight for a world without death penalty

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Today is the 21st European and World Day against the Death Penalty. On this day, Foreign and European Minister Hadja Lahbib reaffirms that efforts to abolish the death penalty remain more necessary than ever. In fact, according to Amnesty International's annual report, 55 countries still uphold the death penalty, with 20 of them still effectively carrying out executions in 2022. Amnesty International states in the same report that the number of executions als increased sharply last year. There were 53% more executions in 2022 than in 2021. Actually, the numbers are even much higher, since not all countries disclose information on the use of the death penalty. More than ever, the goal of Belgium and the European Union remains a complete, global abolition of the death penalty for all crimes.

After all, the death penalty violates not only the right to life but also other human rights, such as the right not to be subjected to torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The International Day against the Death Penalty contributes to raising awareness about these and other human rights aspects concerning the death penalty.

However, the Belgian commitment regarding the abolition of the death penalty is not limited to this one day a year. It involves long-term work on several fronts. Our country remains committed to keeping the issue of the death penalty on the agenda of the UN Human Rights Council, of which Belgium remains a member until 2025. For instance, earlier this year, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Hadja Lahbib herself participated in a panel discussion on the death penalty at the Human Rights Council, where she spoke out on behalf of the eight countries of the "core group" on the death penalty against capital punishment under all circumstances, regardless of the crime'. Furthermore, in early October, Belgium submitted the biennial resolution to the UN Human Rights Council in which it, along with the 7 other countries of the "core group", called for the right to seek pardon or commutation of a death sentence and the right to have the sentence reviewed by a higher court. On 13 October, the Human Rights Council will vote on this resolution. An important moment to highlight the global commitment against the death penalty.

Yet that is not enough for Belgium and the European Union. That is why our country will draw attention at next year's Human Rights Council to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for the abolition of the death penalty.

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